The Issues

Philadelphia Academies, Inc. was founded in 1969 to address
the dropout crisis plaguing Philadelphia schools. PAI now
works to address a set of complex interrelated issues.

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Philadelphia students are graduating at lower rates (76%; 2019) than the state (89%; 2019) and national (88%; 2019) averages

Graduation Rates: Philadelphia students are graduating at lower rates (76%; 2019) than the state (89%; 2019) and national (88%; 2019) averages despite continued efforts on the part of a range of stakeholders. As reported by the Philadelphia Youth Network, “Youth without high school diplomas often face few job options, low annual incomes, and poor health outcomes. High dropout rates within a community are (also) related to higher poverty and crime rates, less tax revenue, and more money and resources spent on social services”.

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“60% of Philadelphia kids attend low-achieving schools, with Black and Latino kids overrepresented at the lowest-performing schools”

Inequities in Access: Black, Latinx, students with disabilities, and students from low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately disadvantaged, lacking in access and opportunity. Racial disparities are evident across Pennsylvania according to a Research for Action (RFA) report published in January 2020. According to that report, Black and Latinx students are disproportionately enrolled in high-poverty schools and those schools provide less access to educational opportunities. According to a recently released report by Philadelphia School Partnership, “60% of Philadelphia kids attend low-achieving schools, with Black and Latino kids overrepresented at the lowest-performing schools”. As the Economy League of Philadelphia reported in June 2020, “it will be important to recognize the deep structural racism that has led to an enduring and deepening legacy of residential and educational segregation that has profoundly shaped the structure of opportunity in our city and country.”

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School districts in PA rely heavily on local property taxes, which means areas with lower property values generate less money for schools than higher wealth areas.

Under-Resourced Schools: School districts in PA rely heavily on local property taxes, which means areas with lower property values generate less money for schools than higher wealth areas. Projections on average per pupil shortfalls for Philadelphia put the deficit at $5,583 per student (Fundforourschoolspa.org/findyourdistrict). According to Philadelphia School Partnership, low-income areas, like North and West Philadelphia, are home to fewer high-ranking schools than wealthier neighborhoods.

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As the School District’s data dashboard currently shows, only 38% of students across the District scored as proficient or advanced on the most recently recorded state language arts tests.

Skill Deficits: Many graduates lack the skills and knowledge to compete for high paying, meaningful careers. As the School District’s data dashboard currently shows, only 38% of students across the District scored as proficient or advanced on the most recently recorded state language arts tests. The results were even worse for math, with only 21% scoring proficient or above. Only 23% of 12th-grade students passed at least one AP, IB, or NOCTI exam before the end of their senior year. Rates for these measures are significantly lower at many of the District’s low-performing schools.

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Few employers have effective youth employment strategies or see youth as part of their talent pipelines.

Industry Needs: Not surprisingly, employers have been reporting challenges in finding local talent, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. But few employers have effective youth employment strategies or see youth as part of their talent pipelines. To address these issues, employers must play a leading role in working with secondary schools and community-based organizations to develop new hiring policies and practices, clearly mapping out the technical skills needed for specific entry-level jobs.

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